Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Losing Weight By Eating Vegan

I have lost 5 pounds in four weeks via my vegan diet. While I am not "fat", I could easily afford to lose 10+ pounds, so I am halfway through my vegan adventure and have lost half the weight I would hope to lose.  That works for me!

I feel great, the food has been good, and I have gotten used to the difficulties of avoiding meat and dairy.  This is an exercise in discipline and planning.  Beyond that it all has come together to be a positive experience.  Most of my friends who thought this was a disaster waiting to happen are pleasantly surprised with my dedication to the vegan diet.

I am working hard to make sure I am getting a variety of types of foods and I think my body has adjusted to my new, although temporary, eating habits.

Which leads me to the big question everyone is wondering: "Will I go back to my old diet after Lent ends?".  Hmmmm, not sure.  I feel so good that I do not want to undermine the health benefits.  Along with skipping the meat and milk... I have to leave many sweets behind, as cakes, cookies, etc... all contain milk and eggs  (I do eat vegan dark chocolate quite often).  Instead I choose fruit for most desserts.

I don't think it is the meat I will avoid after this is over (but I will choose veggie much more often), but instead the dairy.  I have no proof of this, but I have little cravings for the dairy.... and I think that the elimination of the milk products is the reason I feel so good.

The meat on the other hand -- yesterday I was the keynote speaker at a Young Professionals Luncheon in San Marcos, TX.  The meal was catered in from a local BBQ joint.... and the whole meeting room smelled like brisket.  Oh golly did it smell great.  This pretty much proved to me that I will not stay away from meat 100% after Easter!

If I do hit my desired weight I would hate to eat my way back up the scale too quickly, so I must consider my food choices very closely come April 24th.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Vegan Food Not As Appealing While Camping

My kids and I belong to a group called "Adventure Dads and Kids".  It is a group of dads who take their kids camping each month during the school year to a variety of Texas State Parks.

My daughters and I have participated for four years, and the trips are simple fun with the kids.  We hike, swim, cook-out, and drink a little beer (well, the dads do).

The food is typical camping stock.  Fajitas and hot dogs at dinner.  Eggs, pancakes, and bacon for breakfast.  Always good.... but never even close to vegan.

This weekend I had to bring in my own food.  While I ate veggie hot dogs and granola, I watched the fajitas reach perfection on the grill... topped with the cheese, they were tempting.  Breakfast for the rest of the tribe included bacon.  There is something about bacon cooked while camping that makes it amazing.  My veggie sausages just did not have the same appeal.

The fresh fruit was great, but I must admit that camping was one of the harder parts of the vegan adventure.  I wanted those pancakes really bad.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Being Vegan In Austin

If you are going to go vegan for Lent, or any other reason, ..... Austin, Texas is a great place to do it.

Today a friend took me to Beets.  It is a restaurant on 5th Street (near Mopac).  I have been there before, but at the time found it to be over priced raw food.  Today I found it to be an amazing culinary delight.

Everything really is about perspective.

Austin has lots of great places where a vegan can eat.  I have found myself at Casa de Luz and The Vegan Yacht quite often.  I also duck into Whole Foods more than I care to admit to grab something if I need a snack.

I continue to enjoy the food I am eating, I feel great, and I have lost five pounds in 4 weeks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No Substitutions

I attended a special dinner for the speakers at a "Users Conference" for a technology company.  They invited all those giving presentations and some other VIP's to a nice restaurant the night before the event.

There was a preset menu with a choice of a fish, beef or chicken entree.  As the waiter described the selections he added "there will be no substitutions allowed".

I never want to be a pain in the butt to anyone in my "vegan quest", so I asked which meal might come with the most vegetables on the plate so I could eat around the meat.  The waiter looked confused, so I announced I was vegan.


He literally ran from the table to check with the chef.  Much like my experience at another conference two weeks earlier, the reaction caused laughter and conversation with my dining partners.

The waiter returned to tell me the chef would prepare a special entree for me.

When the food came, everyone at my table saw my meal and jokingly raised their hands and proclaimed "I'm a vegan too!!!".  WOW.... it looked great and tasted even better.  It was eight vegetables steamed together to make a delightful culinary experience.

No substitutions was morphed to became one heck of a great meal.

I am coming to find that vegan can be done without too much hassle.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Getting Creative

Sometimes you have to get creative when eating vegan.  We did not have a family plan for dinner last night and decided to eat leftovers.  There was plenty of pasta and Irish stew, but neither matched my vegan needs.

I took some spinach, raw almonds, soy cheese (is it really cheese? no, but it seems like cheese), avocado, Catalina dressing and cooked broccoli.  I stirred it all together with some nutritional yeast, and had a nice dinner.

I followed it with some vegan dark chocolate as dessert, and I have to admit I was satisfied.

My biggest worry when I began this adventure nearly three weeks ago was that I would be left feeling empty.  I did not trust that a plant based diet would fill me up.

I am learning to create meals that meet my body's need for nutrition and my desire for taste.  I have read a bunch of cookbooks and get inspiration from the vegans who consistently are crossing my path with suggestions and recipes.

Today is day 21 of my 50 day challenge (It was only meant to be 4o days vegan for Lent, but I began ten days early).  I am feeling GREAT and I have lost five pounds.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Corned Beef, Irish Stew, Irish Soda Bread - NOPE!

I grew up in a big Irish family.  My mother's parents were both born on the Emerald Isle and they brought the traditions of Ireland, complete with food and drink, to their large American family.  As the youngest of 26 grandchildren I have wonderful memories of St. Patrick's Day, which included Corned Beef, Stews, and Irish Soda Bread.  Eating the family favorite foods was a big part of any holiday.

This year I had to pass on my favorite comfort foods to keep to my vegan diet.  Turns out the Irish eat a lot of boiled meats and put butter and buttermilk in lots of things they cook.

While my wife and daughters ate the stew, I had a vegan vegetable wrap.  It did have avocado and spinach, so I kept the theme of "green" for St. Patty!  No Irish Soda Bread was even made this year.  Bummer.

Being vegan has been a lesson in discipline, but I wake up today and feel good about my being steadfast.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vegans and Meat Lovers Living Side By Side In Austin

Part of participating in the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival in Austin, TX involves attending some of the late night parties that are so prevalent around town.  While with a group of friends, some of whom had not eaten dinner, we ended up at Frank..... a local restaurant that specializes in hot dogs.

I was pretty sure I would not be eating at this stop, but it turns out this carnivores dream of a restaurant also has a "Veggie Hot Dog" option.  To top it off, veggie chili.  The waitress assured me it was good and that she, too, was a vegan.

I loved that a vegan would work in a hot dog restaurant.... only in Austin!

Hey, I was hungry.... why not give it a try?

When my hot dog arrived I was concerned the kitchen had messed up, but the server assured me I was safe in the vegan zone.  It was really good.

Vegans and meat lovers living as one.  What a great world.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bacon Slipped In

While at a party last night I was encouraged to try the dip.  It was chutney of nuts, raisins, and some other finely chopped ingredients.  I asked my wife and another person who had helped make the dip if it was in line with my vegan diet.... "Yep, you are good!". 

I took a bite... it was good.... and immediately they went "Whoa...... BACON!".

There was not much, and it was an honest mistake.  Thus.... I am not counting this tiny pig ingestion as any type of carnivore failure.

But it is a good reminder that meat and dairy find their way into many items.  To do a vegan diet one must be forever diligent, and not get too upset if something slips in. 

This mishap has educated me to the reality that it must be difficult to live with food allergies.  I don't go into shock if I eat meat or dairy, but those who have real reaction to peanuts and other items must constantly live with the worry of what has found its way into their foods.  I am already reading every label and asking questions at restaurants, etc.... 

The dip did taste very good and I did not taste any bacon (mostly chopped nuts and raisins), so I am going to assume my little scoop was bacon free.  I think all the bacon was congregating on the other side of the bowl.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Yesterday I was not prepared for the unexpected, and it caused me to go hungry for a few hours.

I had to teach a class for the SOS Leadership Institute at 11:30 AM, speak for Rise Austin at 2:00 PM, and deliver a keynote for FedEx at 6:00 PM.  There was little time in my schedule to eat lunch, and when things did not go as planned, I found myself not able to eat enough for most of the day.

My intention was to eat a Tofu Vermicelli Bowl at Lulu B's.  This is a great Vietnamese food trailer on South Lamar that is located near the SOS Leadership offices.  They open at 11:00 (or there abouts), and that would have given me time to grab lunch.  But they did not open until 11:20, and then told me that Tofu Bowl would take 20 minutes.  OUCH, I did not have the time to eat.

Fortunately there were some carrots in the refrigerator at SOS Leadership (Amber is so wonderful to share them with me!), and one of the students brought some snacks which included dried fruit.

I immediately went to the Rise event, and at 4:00 I headed over to the Austin Convention Center to pick up my South by Southwest (SXSW) badge.  Luckily, this Austin, TX, and SXSW brings in an eclectic group.... so the concession stand had vegan sandwiches.  It was nearly 5:00 PM when I was able to eat.  Just in time to fuel up before the FedEx event.

The FedEx party was amazing, and amongst all the great food they had a mountain of fresh fruit.

The day worked out just fine (it was a lot of fun), but I had failed to bring any snacks with me.  I have learned my lesson that I must always be prepared for eating enough nutritious food to keep me going if something goes awry with my meal plans.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Said Vegan... Not Al Qaeda

While attending a large industry conference I had notified the meeting planner in advance of my vegan meal needs.  Upon arrival at check-in I was given a special blue card and told to give it to my waiter at each meal.

On the first day of the conference I was late getting to the lunch banquet (I was in the hallway networking... is anyone really surprised?).  By the time I found a place to sit the meals were already being served.  I waived down the waiter and showed him my blue placard.

He nodded and said, "Yes, Vegetarian!". 

Whoa.... I pointed out out... "No, Vegan".

The waiter recoiled in horror and backed away slowly.  "VEGAN?.... uhhh????, okay".

The whole table of convention goers burst into laughter.  One person added, "You did say Vegan, not Al Qaeda, right?"

We had a great conversation at our table that day.  Who knew that my dietary choices for the Lent season would be such a great ice breaker!

thom singer

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Begin Vegan

Today officially marks the beginning of Lent.  No turning back on my vegan adventure.

While the idea was 40 days vegan, I started early to ensure I could really make such a change.  I have already gone vegan for ten days.

I feel lighter, and the scale says I have lost three pounds.  I feel healthy, and have focused on getting the right nutrition.

I have even tested trying to eat while traveling, as I spent three days at a business conference.  Requesting special meals at the banquets, avoiding almost all finger foods at the happy hours, and eating piles of fruits and vegetables.

I have learned to cook new plant based foods, and have already tried new things I had not eaten before.

During Lent I will have several business and social functions that will require me to bring my own food, but I am looking forward to seeing how I do on this vegan diet from now until Easter.

This blog is where I will document my experiences.  Please check in from time to time and see how it is going.  Feel free to share your comments, ideas, recipes, etc....

thom singer

Monday, March 7, 2011

Traveling and The Vegan Diet

I have already made it 8 days, and Lent has not started.  My "test day" (to see if I could eat vegan) grew to two, then three, then four days.  Why stop... just keep this plant based diet going.  Thus the name of this blog should really be 50 Days Vegan.  Oh well.

It has not been difficult and the food has been tasty.  The only hard part has been being prepared to eat.

The tricky part is travel.  I had a trip to Palm Springs, where I was the keynote speaker at a large business conference, and the travel day to California left me a little hungry.  Upon arrival I had intended to find a Whole Foods before going to my hotel, but to my surprise there is no Whole Foods in Palm Springs (What? This is California!).

There is Trader Joe's, and they had pre-made vegan sandwiches, and other great choices.  I stocked up my hotel room with fresh fruit and other snacks, and the rest of the trip I never went hungry.

It was hard at the conference "Welcome Reception", as the waiters were passing great looking hors d'oeuvres that were basically all meat and cheese in combination.

An old friend who had moved to Portland several years ago was in attendance at the conference.  After my presentation he came up to say hello, and I ended up going to dinner with him and his boss.  We asked the concierge for a recommendation that would have good meals for meat lovers and vegan.  Without hesitation he sent us to a local restaurant, Sherman's Deli & Bakery.

Once in this culinary wonderland (the chef's case was full of the best looking cookies, cheesecakes, and other desserts) it was clear there was no hint of any vegan choices.  While we were waiting for the table I looked over the menu.  Nope... no options.  I asked the hostess about vegan choices and she replied, pointing to the menu, "All of our salads are fabulous... have a salad!".  There salads were ALL meat and cheese based:  a tuna salad, a chicken salad, a Cobb salad, etc...   If I had customized to fit my needs I would have had lettuce for dinner.

We decided to try another place down the street.

"Cork Tree - California Cuisine" looked promising.  Anything with "California Cuisine" in the name should be able to accommodate my vegan-ness.  While the menu showed no obvious selection, our fantastic waitress assured me the chef could take good care of my dinner.

HOME RUN!  A wonderful green salad followed by a customized vegetable and Navy Bean saute in a sauce I will dream about for weeks.  I think my meal was even better than the wonderful meats enjoyed by my dining companions.  The chef even came to the table to see how I enjoyed his creation.

I am sure Sherman's Deli is a great place,.... but I am happy we ended up a Cork Tree. 

thom singer

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"The Vegan Yacht" Makes Eating Vegan More Delicious!

My "Vegan Test Day" on Sunday went so well it has continued for five days.  At this point I think my eating vegan for Lent experiment has started early.  If so, (I could still stumble and eat some cheese), it will turn 40 Days Vegan into 50 Days Vegan. 

Today I ate at "The Vegan Yacht".  Austin, Texas is famous for it's food trailers, and you can find just about any cuisine.... including Vegan.  This find was recommended by someone (cannot recall who, or I would give them their well deserved praise), and I was curious to find another place to eat while on my quest.

"The Vegan Yacht" is located in an empty lot about three blocks east of IH-35 on 6th Street.  The property is now populated by about seven food trailers (buses, carts, Airstreams, etc..) that include a variety of cuisines including eggs, cheese-steakes, Mexican food, ice cream, etc.. 

This trailer of delightfully tasting and healthy vegan choices is run by a couple named Mike and Danielle.  They own and operate the establishment and have no other employees.  I shared with Mike my upcoming vegan commitment and he became my mentor of munchies, my teacher of tempeh, my professor of plant-food passion, and my victor of veggies.  He answered dozens of questions, and cheered me on in my vegan adventure.

I ordered the "Freeto Burrito".  I must admit, the idea of a fake meat and cheese burrito was not that appealing at first thought, but this was one of the best meals I have ever had eating from a food cart anywhere (Yes, the Reindeer Hot Dog at Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs in Denver is still the leader in my food trailer travels).  Delicious does not come close to describing this meal. 

I also had a glass of some fungus tea that Mike promised was micro-biotic and good for digestion.  Hey, why not!  I liked it.  Sort of tasted like beer mixed with 7-Up (but in a good way).

This meat-eater knows he can survive eating vegan as long as "The Vegan Yacht" exists!